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Feinstein, Boxer demand answers on safety measures at deadly California 200 race on federal land

California’s two U.S. senators Wednesday called on the federal Bureau of Land Management to explain why “proper precautions’’ were not in place for a Mojave Desert off-road race where eight spectators were killed as the result of a crash.

In a letter to BLM Director Bob Abbey, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer asked the agency to explain what safety measures were required during the California 200 nighttime race, which was held on desert land overseen by the federal agency in the Lucerne Valley.

The senators also wanted the agency to detail how many BLM employees monitored the race, and penalties or other enforcement actions agency officials have the authority to impose if safety violations occur.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss of life, and our hearts go out to the victims and their families,’’ the senators stated in the letter sent Wednesday. “What makes this accident even more troubling is that with proper precautions, it could have been prevented.’’

Eight people were killed and 10 others injured Saturday evening when an off-road racer lost control of his modified Ford Ranger truck after a jump and rolled into a crowd of spectators gathered within feet of the dirt racecourse.

The event promoter, Mojave Desert Racing of El Monte, has been criticized by some racers, other promoters and critics of the sport for allowing spectators to edge so close to the track – especially at a spot where past crashes have occurred.

The BLM granted a permit to Mojave Desert Racing to hold the race, one of more than 100 such events held on BLM-controlled land annually. A stipulation in the permit required that the promoter keep speeding racers more than 50 feet from “any social group.’’

The deadly crash occurred at a spot known as the “rock pile,’’ where more than a 100 fans had gathered to watch the race. Officials with the California Highway Patrol said the truck came to rest less than 10 feet from the racecourse.

The driver of the truck, Brett Sloppy of San Marcos, will not face charges related to the crash because it occurred during a “sanctioned’’ sporting event permitted by the BLM and did not involve public roadways, CHP officials said.

In their letter, the senators also asked the BLM director to provide information about penalties imposed on race organizers who violate their permits and whether the agency collects data on safety violations and how that information is used.

“While it is important that we continue to provide opportunities for off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation on our nation’s public lands, adequate precautions must be taken to ensure that these activities are conducted safely,’’ Boxer and Feinstein stated in the letter.

Officials with Mojave Desert Racing have not responded to repeated request for comments.

On Tuesday, the firm posted the following statement on its website: “MDR wishes to emphasize again that we were shocked and saddened by the tragedy at our race in Johnson Valley. We grieve over the fact that those who perished or were injured were part of our off-road community and family. A number of victims were our friends and we all feel a great loss. Thank you to the off-road community for all their support and prayers.

-- Phil Willon

Photo: A frame grab from a video of the California 200 race. Credit: CBS News.
Comments () | Archives (19)

just a guess, bet the blm just collects their fees & tells organizers to watch out for the desert turtles

Is this really worth the involvement of our two US Senators?

With the economy in shambles, two wars, rampant illegal immigration and California stumbling into insolvency, and this issue gets their attention.

They should resign for sheer incompetence.

Vote out Boxer in November 2010!

this is horse crap, Diane and Barbara should be concentrating on fixing the borders. if people want to go to the desert to watch racing, let them be. they know how dangerous it can be but hey that is a thrill that these people are searching for. Leave em alone.....

These two broads are great at running around and demanding stuff from everyone but they are not very good at listening to their constituants....

Sens. Feinstein and Boxer are barking up the wrong tree. The entirety of the blame goes to attendees who are stupid enough to stand feet from these racing vehicles.

MDR represents a bunch of ignorant rednecks. What do you expect?

Boxer and feinstein should be asking why CA is bankrupt.

Oh course. These are the same 2 women that had a hand in closing down so many of the public roads in what they now call the Mojave Preserve. Watch that will be their goal here to.

Why doesn't this reassure me? Is it because these politicians are trying to draw attention away from all the problems they have created?

I haven't heard anything about Boxer or Feinstein for ages... Are they back in the news now because there's an election coming up?

These two are trying real hard to look as they care. Both gotta go. Time for them to go enjoy the big pensions they are going to get. At least we will not have to listen to them.

Let us hope they send someone to jail.

Don't get me wrong. This was an awful tragedy. With that being said, Boxer and Feinstein (better known as the tip-toe bandits) need to be concerned with unemployment and illegal immigration in California. It's just another attempt to be the peoples' heroes since the elections are right around the corner. I, for one, will not be voting for either one of them.

I hope you get used to life without politics because California doesn't need you.

Doesn't this just amaze every American? When it's time for re-election, these Politicians act as though their doing their jobs. It's time for real change in November.

Really ? Boxer and Feinstein having nothing better to do ? Leave the investigation to the BLM, police and fire departments.

I got a better idea: how about Boxer and Feinstein demand answers as to why the state economy is in the dumpster...oh, wait, I already know...too many progressive liberal social handouts under the guise of "Free Money".

I urge the reporter to ask the BLM official responsible for issuing permits to find out whether the permit included the following:

1. Was the promoter required to provide proof that it had insurance that included the BLM (the US taxpayers) as an additional insured just in case something like this happened? I will not be suprised if the relatives of the deceased sue the US taxpayers.
2. Was the promoter required to indemnify the BLM in case something like this happened so that the promoter would be required to defend the BLM (again the US Taxpayers) from a lawsuit that is sure to come from the relatives of the deceased individuals.
3. Was the promoter required to provide a security plan to the BLM to help assure that something like this would not happen or at least minimize the chances of something like this from happening?
4. Was there a provision in the permit that imposed any alcohol consumption by spectators -- particularly since we are dealing with public property?
5. Although not related to the incident, does the BLM require a bond to insure that the property is cleaned up after the event?
I do not consider any of these issues to be hindsight since I know a lot of "responsible" public agencies make these standard boilerplate conditons when it comes to permitting the private commercical use of public property. All these provsions are intended to protect not only the participating public but also the taxpayers!

Finally, when the National Park Service is charging $15.00 per car I am assounded that the permit for this event was only $9.00 plus change -- I hope I misread something.

What is there to probe ? If you stand in the middle of a freeway guess what is going to happen. If people are dumb enough to stand right next to speeding cars without a barrier we can't help them.
And by the way don't dry your hair in the bath tub with an electric hair dryer.



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